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Leo Panitch, 1945-2020

Submitted by martin on 5 January, 2021 - 6:07 Author: Martin Thomas
Leo Panitch

Leo Panitch, an assiduous and important Marxist writer on political economy and an active socialist, died on 19 December 2020, from Covid-19 contracted after being admitted to hospital with cancer.

His biggest book, The Making of Global Capitalism, written with Sam Gindin, is essential reading, and summarised a vigorous programme of research into post-1945 capitalism.

I first met Leo Panitch, I think, at an "International Marx Congress" at Nanterre University, near Paris, in 2004. He was off-hand, and I guessed he had the typical attitude of a famous university professor (at York University, Toronto) to Marxist activists without similar academic credentials.

Far from it. Evidently I'd caught him at a bad moment. In general he was always ready to argue and pursue ideas, with vigour and without pomposity. In the following years he did many interviews with me for Solidarity, and he spoke at one of our weekend schools in 2010.

His Marxist and socialist training was as a postgraduate student with Ralph Miliband at the London School of Economics in the early 1970s and in the Waffle, which was first a left faction of the New Democratic Party, his native Canada's equivalent of the Labour Party, and then for a while an independent grouping.

In 1985-86, he became a co-editor with Ralph Miliband of the Socialist Register, an annual volume of debate and theory, and he continued to edit it until his death. He remained active in day-to-day socialist politics too, through the Socialist Project group in Toronto.

Panitch (and Ralph Miliband as refracted through Panitch) were, as far as I can make out, prime theoretical inspirations for the inner circle of the Jacobin magazine in the USA, with all its strengths and weaknesses.

So many unfinished arguments, so many not-yet-asked questions, that now we will never be able to pursue with Leo Panitch. His death is not the end of a gradual fading-away, but a brutal cutting-off-short.

Honour Leo Panitch by reading The Making of Global Capitalism, if you haven't already done so.

• Reviews of The Making of Global Capitalism: and

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